Are You Comforted?
"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever" (Psalm 23, NKJV).
Many pastors use Psalm 23 when they eulogize a person's life when he/she has departed from us. However, what if the purpose of Psalm 23 is to comfort us in the day by day routine? The psalmist starts by saying, "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want." He's saying that God provides for him in all circumstances. How is this relateable to the passing of one's life? God cannot provide more for a man or a woman when they pass through the veil of death to Him.
"He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters," the quill writes. Can we honestly say that in the daily grind of life we have perfect peace? Even the best Christian among us is busy, hectic, and deal with stress. Do you see God in control enough so that you can say, "You help me lie down; you lead me to still water?" His comfort toward us is the result of what Jesus Christ did at the cross. Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful" (John 14:27, Holman Christian Standard).
The peace which Christ gives to us allows us the ability to say, "Lord, you restore me. You guide and You show me how to remain righteous as Your Son is righteous. I go through perilous times, but Your word, Your law, it comforts me." I love how Matthew Henry looks at the next set of text: "The valley of the shadow of death may denote the most severe and terrible affliction, or dark dispensation of providence, that the psalmist ever could come under" (speaking of verse 4). We all walk through some sort of fiery trial. A child we gave birth to dies. Or maybe even work we once loved doing was taken away from us. It's an every day occurence to experience some form of death. But we all come out from under it.
The psalmist continues on - "Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me." A shepherd usually leads the flock of sheep from the front. If the shepherd turns left, so does the flock; if he turns right, so do the sheep. The rod represents God's word which can both be a comfort and to admonish. The staff is more to keep those under the shepherd's care from any type of harm. This means the staff, also God's word, is to ward off those who come to do evil.
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies," the psalmist declares of God. When have you felt the safest during the day? Maybe at home, with a meal prepared, and the alarm is set? God sets good things before His people, whether in peace and safety or in the midst of those who do evil. It means God provides safety to those belonging to Him. There is a certain liberty we have in America where the teaching of the Bible doesn't fully come under any hardship as it does in other parts of the world.
"You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows," he writes on. In Gill's Exposition of the Bible, he says of this part of the verse, "Giving an abundance of good things, not only for necessity, but for pleasure and delight; especially pouring out largely upon him the oil of gladness; the Spirit of God and his graces...The allusion is to the custom of the eastern countries, at feasts, to anoint the heads of the guests with oil." Gill furthermore says, especially on the "cup overflows," that it "denotes an affluence of temporal good things, and especially of spiritual ones, which was David's case."
The Pulpit commentary says, "The past is an earnest of the future, As God's "goodness and mercy" have always followed him hitherto, David has no doubt that they will continue to cling to him while his life continues," in regards to verse 6, which reads, "Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life." David finishes the psalm by saying, "I will dwell in the house of the LORD as long as I live." Matthew Henry's observation is good to put into effect at the ending of this chapter, by saying, "While here, the Lord can make any situation pleasant, by the anointing of his Spirit and the joys of his salvation. But those that would be satisfied with the blessings of his house, must keep close to the duties of it."
Therefore, Psalm 23 stands out as a song of comfort, whether in good times or in bad. It's a song that releases God to work no matter the circumstance. It reminds me of where Paul writes, "I know how to be humbled, and I know also how to abound. In everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in need" (Philippians 4:12, World English). Surely God's goodness and lovingkindness can be seen regardless any situation we may face. We can see that in learning to allow God to be faithful and just toward us in His love, He comforts us. Are you comforted knowing this?